FORT MILL, S.C. -- Indianapolis starter Phil Irwin helped prevent a Charlotte sweep by striking out a career-high 11 batters over seven scoreless innings to lead the Indians to an 8-0 shut out victory over the Knights on Friday night at Knights Stadium.
Irwin (7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 SO) came through in the clutch for the Tribe, allowing just four total baserunners while striking out a career-best 11 to earn the win and prevent the Knights from gaining the series sweep. Including the regular season, Irwin has been nothing short of dominant as since joining the Tribe he has posted a combined 4-0 record with a miniscule 1.93 ERA (6 ER in 28.0 IP) and amazing 39 strikeouts over 28.0 innings pitched.
Following Irwin, relievers Duke Welker (1.0 IP, 1 SO) and Jose Diaz (1.0 IP, 2 SO) finished out the victory by combining to strike out three over two perfect innings of relief.
The Indians offense gave Irwin all the support he would need with a single score in the top of the first thanks to the red-hot Chase d'Arnaud. The Tribe shortstop, who had collected five hits and five RBI over the first two games of the playoff series, continued to surge as he led off the game with a infield hit, stole second, stole third and eventually came plateward on a sacrifice fly by 1B Matt Hague.
Though the single score would be enough for Irwin and company, the Indianapolis offense would break the game open with a five-run sixth, before tacking on two insurance scores in the eighth.
d'Arnaud once again sparked the offensive outbreak as he led of the sixth by drawing a hit by pitch, before quickly coming around to score when 2B Anderson Hernandez followed with a line drive double to left. 3B Hector Luna followed Hernandez's two-bagger with one of his own to extend the Tribe lead to 3-0, before DH Yamaico Navarro brought home Luna with a two-base knock later in the frame.
Indianapolis then continued to tack on the two-out scores as CF Brandon Boggs singled to left and LF Jeff Larish walked to load the bases for C Miguel Perez. The Indians backstop, who entered the game without an RBI in an Tribe uniform this season, would come through with a line drive base to center to score Navarro and Boggs and push the lead to 6-0.
The Indians offense was not finished however as they added two more insurance scores in the eighth to give the game its final tally of 8-0. Former Charlotte Knight Dallas McPherson began the eighth inning rally with a lead-off walk, before being brought immediately plateward when Navarro followed with a double to deep center field.
Larish would cap the scoring later in the eighth as he brought home Navarro with a sac fly to give the Indians 21 runs over their last two games. Overall, the Indians offense spread the wealth on Friday night as seven different batters collected at least one hit, six scored at least one run and six drove in at least one run.
Charlotte's only scoring threats came when they put the lead-off batter in each of the first two frames as DH Greg Golson led of the game with a hit-by-pitch, while Indiana native Josh Phegley led off the second with a double. Irwin would however escape both jams with some help from the strikeout and Indians' hurlers would hold down the Knights the rest of the way.
Charlotte starter Scott Carroll (5.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 0 BB, 5 SO) suffered the loss after allowing five runs on six hits over 5.2 innings pitched. Following Carroll only Knights RHP Ryan Kussmaul (1.0 IP, 2 SO) managed to toss a scoreless frame as Charlotte relievers Daniel Moskos (1.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO) and Dan Remenowksy (1.0 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO) each allowed an earned run in their outings.
Following the game three victory the Indians will now look to even the series when they take on the Knights in game four on Saturday night at 7:15 p.m. LHP Kris Johnson is expected to get the start for Indianapolis, while Charlotte is scheduled to counter with RHP Matt Zaleski.
The game will be carried on WNDE 1260 AM-WFBQ-HD2, WNDE.com and via iheartradio, a mobile application for iPhone, Blackberry and Android phones with Howard Kellman and Will Flemming on the call. The pre-game show begins at 6:55 p.m.
Post-game quotes -- RHP Phil Irwin
(On the key to coming through in a must-win game)
"They had been really aggressive and beat us up early for two games in a row. I wanted to go inside and I wanted to go inside hard, because they had been really comfortable. So I had it in my mind if I go 0-1, I am going in off the plate. I felt really good with my control all night. The sinker was working really well and I was pounding guys in alot and I was able to finish them off with the curveball."
(On what was working for him to get his career-high 11 strikeouts)
"It was my curveball. It allows me to strikeout guys out. It was really good tonight, I could throw it for a strike, I could bounce it, I could move it around and once I had established that enough and they were conscious of it, then I started freezing them on fastballs and even getting swing throughs on fastballs."
(On working with catcher Miguel Perez)
"Miguel is great. Me and him have a great relationship. He's got some time in the Big Leagues. He understands what to do back there in calling a game."